Originally published on Persephone and cross-posted here with their permission.
I was IMing with a friend recently about a guy she has an unrequited crush on. She was absolutely smitten, but thoroughly convinced that he would have nothing to do with her.
When I asked her why, she heaved a heavy Internet *SIIIIIIGH* and said, “Ugh, well he only dates Asian girls. You’re so lucky you’re Asian!”
I think now is an appropriate time to discuss exactly how “lucky” we Asian women can be in the dating world.
I am proud to be an Asian woman and to look the way that I do. It took a while to get here since nobody on The OC or One Tree Hill looked like me when I was growing up, but I am finally happy with the way that I look.
My issue with being an Asian woman and trying to date has less to do with my perception of myself, and everything to do with the way I am treated and perceived by men, specifically non-Asian men.
Meeting new people in a romantic sense is difficult for anyone. And, for me, the experience has been made all the more difficult and uncomfortable by stereotypes about Asian women.
There are times that I have been discriminated against because of my race. Weirdly enough, that kind of rejection isn’t that difficult for me to get over. If I know that someone is rejecting because of racist preferences, I can let that roll off my back easily because that person is just another racist that I don’t have to concern myself with.
The more tricky situation concerns something called “Yellow Fever.”
No, not the actual disease.
Yellow Fever is more of a social disease.
Carriers of Yellow Fever are obsessed with Asian women to the point where they rarely, if ever, date or enter into a sexual relationship with any other women.
They actively seek out Asian women to satisfy their romantic and sexual desires.
I can usually tell almost immediately if I’m dealing with someone who has this fetish for Asian women.
Sometimes, the guys are extremely vocal about it and proudly proclaim that they have it. But most of the time, it is framed as a preference by men who simply “prefer” Asian women over other women.
Either way, I can’t take this phenomenon as some kind of compliment. I sure used to, though.
When I first came across guys like this, it was my first year in college. I was fresh out of high school, had a lot of self esteem issues, and was really excited that anyone would even be interested in me at all.
For a while, I admit that I tried to use this “Yellow Fever” thing to my advantage.
It’s incredibly easy to seal the deal with a dude that exclusively has a thing for Asian women. You just tell them “what kind of Asian” you are, tell them the words you know in that language, and giggle. Giggle a lot. That’s it!
But the reason why it’s so easy is because these guys really don’t care who I am as an individual. I could just as easily be another person entirely.
The only thing that matters to these guys is that I’m Asian, and everything else is unimportant.
And once I figured that out, it made me sick to my stomach.
But even after I stopped entertaining the Yellow Fever nonsense, the hits just kept on coming. I have dealt with a seemingly endless array of shit that is directly linked to my Asianness.
Here are the top five:
1. When I was Internet dating a couple years ago, a guy told me that he had found me by searching for only Asian women. Well, that’s one way to use the Search function on OKCupid.
2. “What kind of Asian are you?” and “Say some things in your language” are deemed suitable ice breakers and pickup lines for men who hit on me at parties, clubs, and bars.
3. I’ve been told on multiple occasions that I could make a living in porn because I am an Asian woman with big breasts. Every time it was meant as a compliment.
4. An ex once casually told me that he almost exclusively watches Asian fetish porn, assumed that I would be okay with it, and then got upset with me when I hinted that he might possibly be doing something racist.
5. I opened the laptop of another ex to check my email, and I saw that he had searched “Asian” on a porn site and was halfway through a video with a bunch of white guys ejaculating on an Asian woman’s face
I don’t know about you, but being subjected to all of that doesn’t make me feel very lucky at all.
Obviously, the things on this list don’t happen to me all the time.
Not all men are like this, and there are plenty of people I’ve been romantically involved with who have never treated me this way.
I am actually in a relationship right now with a great non-Asian guy who would never pull things like this and doesn’t harbor those harmful stereotypical ideas about Asian women.
But ever since the last two experiences I listed, I still constantly question if any of the other people I’ve been involved with or who have found me attractive only felt that way because I’m an Asian woman.
And that’s a hard thing to shake.
I still feel like I have been objectified, exotified, and hypersexualized because of my race, and sometimes I have trouble trusting people who find me attractive because of that.
People with Yellow Fever don’t want to get to know Asian women.
In fact, I would venture to say that they don’t care very much about Asian women at all.
They are more concerned with the idea of us – the notion that we are adorable little kawaii girls or demure lotus flowers or geisha-like sexual objects.
Their attraction to Asian women relies on stereotypes that turn us into exotic sexual objects instead of real women.
Stereotypes turn people like me into things that are measured against a caricature, and they strip me of the individuality that, frankly, I would probably have been more freely assigned if I were white.
It is dehumanizing at best to constantly be compared to a stereotype and to have people chasing you not as a person, but as an embodiment of the stereotypes that they use to define you.
Settling for being treated like nothing more than an exotic souvenir gets really old really fast.
I am a real person. I am an individual with depth and emotion and interests and flaws.
My skin, my eyes, and where my ancestors came from do not make me any less of a human being worthy of being respected and treated like an individual.
I do feel good about being Asian.
I am lucky to have the family and culture that I grew up with. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the ethnic part of my identity.
But when it comes to dating, my Asian identity – or, rather, the stereotypes surrounding it and treatment towards me because of it – have the potential to hurt me more than help me.
Does that seem very lucky to you?
Lauren sMash is a writer, feminist, pop culture addict, and unabashed nerd living in San Diego, CA. She’s enthusiastic about the Internet, and I enjoy smashing things. Read more of her writing at Persephone Magazine.